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Egypt's Military Council and the Transition to Democracy

Briefing Paper
Maha Azzam, May 2012

  • Egypt's transition to democracy has been undermined by the legacy of almost 60 years of consecutive rule by men from the military. Since the fall of Mubarak the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has attempted to direct the process of democratization but has frequently responded to challenges through tactics reminiscent of the old regime.
     
  • The public's search for security and economic stability and the military's elevated position in the eyes of many have allowed the SCAF to maintain significant power during the transition period and often to outmanoeuvre its political opponents. However, its position and interests have been challenged by the democratic process. It is likely that the military institution itself will ultimately be subject to scrutiny, although much depends on the choice of president.
     
  • A withdrawal of the military from politics does not just mean a withdrawal from the limelight, something the SCAF has wanted; it is a process that requires its full separation from the political arena and non-interference in the parliamentary and constitutional process. This requires budgetary accountability and transparency, and means the military must not be above the law.
     
  • The failure to achieve a speedy transition to civilian rule will not only delay progress towards a fully democratic Egypt. It will also increase the polarization and conflict between the old guard and the 'new' Egypt, distracting attention from addressing the pressing economic and social demands of the majority of Egyptians.
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